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Comey Memo on Flynn Investigation

Airdate: May 17, 2017
According to notes kept by former FBI director James Comey, President Donald Trump asked him to halt an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Those notes provide the closest there is to a smoking gun that Trump tried to interfere with an investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton will discuss the case.

Guests:
  • Paul Charlton - Partner, Steptoe & Johnson
Keywords: James Comey, President, National Security, Paul Charlton, Michael Flynn, Security Adviser, Comey Memo, Flynn Investigation,

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON, A SPECIAL COUNSEL IS NAMED TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN INFLUENCE ON THE 2016 U.S. ELECTION. ALSO TONIGHT: STATE REPUBLICAN LEADERS TALK ABOUT THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED LEGISLATIVE SESSION... AND THE ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY HOSTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY. THOSE STORIES NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

NARRATOR: "ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. THANK YOU.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON. I'M TED SIMONS. THE COURT FIGHT OVER A WEST-VALLEY CASINO IS OVER. THIS AFTER THE TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION AND THE STATE OF ARIZONA SETTLED A LONG-STANDING LAWSUIT OVER THE TRIBE'S CASINO NEAR GLENDALE. THE SETTLEMENT ALLOWS THE TRIBE TO RUN FULL-FLEDGED GAMBLING AND SELL ALCOHOL AT THE CASINO WITH THE STIPULATION THAT THE TRIBE WILL NOT OPEN MORE CASINOS IN THE PHOENIX AREA. THE SETTLEMENT MUST BE APPROVED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, WHICH HAS 45 DAYS TO LOOK THE DEAL OVER. THE AGREEMENT IS SEEN AS A PRECURSOR TO NEGOTIATIONS FOR AN AMENDED STATE GAMING COMPACT WITH ARIZONA TRIBES. AND THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TODAY APPOINTED A SPECIAL COUNSEL TO OVERSEE THE INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY ROD ROSENSTEIN ANNOUNCED THAT FORMER FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER WILL RUN THE INVESTIGATION. TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT FOLLOWS REPORTS BY THE NEW YORK TIMES THAT FORMER FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY WAS ASKED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP TO, QUOTE, "LET GO" OF AN INVESTIGATION INTO FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER MICHAEL FLYNN. DID THE PRESIDENT'S REQUEST AMOUNT TO OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE? WE ASK FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR ARIZONA, PAUL CHARLTON. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

PAUL CHARLTON: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TED SIMONS: I WANT TO GET TO THAT QUESTION. THINGS ARE CHANGING RAPIDLY. THE SPECIAL COUNCIL WAS MADE BY THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MOVE?

PAUL CHARLTON: I THINK IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. BOB MULLER IS A FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FBI. NO ONE KNOWS THE PROCESS BETTER. THIS IS AN INDIVIDUAL WHOSE GOAL IS TO DISCOVER THE FACTS.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS NOT AN INDEPENDENT COUNCIL?

PAUL CHARLTON: IT'S ONE WE MIGHT REMEMBER FROM HISTORY, ARCHIBALD COX. NIXON FIRED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INVESTIGATION. THIS IS DIFFERENT. THIS IS AN INDIVIDUAL APPOINTED BY THE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL. HE WILL REPORT TO ROB ROSENSTEIN, WHICH IS DIFFERENT THAN THE OLD INDEPENDENCE LAW.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? I REMEMBER WHEN BILL CLINTON WAS GOING THROUGH THIS. THAT STARTED WITH WHITE WATER AND ENDED WITH MONICA LEWINSKY. THIS INVESTIGATION CAN GO IN ANY DIRECTION OR FOCUSED ON RUSSIAN INFLUENCE IN THE ELECTION?

PAUL CHARLTON: THAT'S A VERY GOOD CONCERN. THIS IS AN INVESTIGATION WHICH IS CIRCUMSCRIBED BY ROB ROSENSTEIN TO MR. MULLER OF HOW FAR HE CAN GO.

TED SIMONS: IF HE WANTS TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE OR FINDS SOMETHING ELSE, WHAT HAPPENS?

PAUL CHARLTON: HE IS TO GO BACK TO ASK FOR PERMISSION TO EXPAND THE SCOPE OF HIS INVESTIGATION. IN THE PAST, INDEPENDENT COUNCIL SUPERVISED BY A THREE PANEL MEMBER OF THE COURT OF APPEALS FAMOUSLY WENT BEYOND THE SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION. HERE WE CAN COUNT ON BOB MULLER TO DO WHAT HE WAS ASKED TO DO AND THE SUPERVISION OF MR. ROSENSTEIN TO LOOK AT THINGS THAT DESERVE HIS ATTENTION.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? GIVE US A TIMELINE?

PAUL CHARLTON: THERE IS NO TIMELINE. MR. MULLER HAS RESIGNED HIS POSITION, AND WILL TAKE A PUBLIC SALARY. HE KNOWS HOW TO INVESTIGATE A CASE, ASSEMBLE A TEAM AND WORK WITH THE FBI. IF THIS CAN BE DONE QUICKLY, HE CAN DO IT AS FAST AS FEASIBLE.

TED SIMONS: LET'S MOVE ON TO THE FIRING OF THE FBI DIRECTOR, COULD THAT BE INCLUDED IN THIS INVESTIGATION OR NO -- UNLESS THEY FIND A CONNECTION, CORRECT?

PAUL CHARLTON: WE DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER YET. WE'LL HAVE TO SEE. THE FACTS WILL LEAD BOB MULLER. AS HE LOOKS AT RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE, IT MAY LEAD TO THE REASON FOR MR. COMBY'S FIRING AND BOB MULLER, IF THAT'S WHERE THE FACTS TAKE HIM, HE WILL GO THERE.

TED SIMONS: GO TO THE QUOTE OF LETTING THE PROBE GO. LET THE INVESTIGATION GO. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT?

PAUL CHARLTON: JIM COMEY HAS INCREDIBLE CREDIBILITY. IF THE FACTS ARE AS THE NEWS REPORTED THEM, THERE IS A PROBLEM AND OPPORTUNITY FOR THE INDEPENDENT COUNCIL FOR THE SPECIAL COUNCIL TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE FACTS. WE DON'T YET KNOW ALL OF THE FACTS. IT WILL BE IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT THE MEMORANDA LOOK LIKE. NOW THAT WE HAVE A SPECIAL COUNCIL, WHETHER OR NOT JIM COMEY WANTS TO OR WILL BE ABLE TO TESTIFY PUBLICLY ABOUT THE PRESIDENT WILL BE CALLED INTO QUESTION.

TED SIMONS: THE PRESIDENT SAYING THAT, CAN THAT BE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE OR THE FACT THAT HE FIRED FBI AGENT AFTERWARDS. HOW DOES THAT PLAY INTO THIS?

PAUL CHARLTON: THEY HAVE TO LOOK INTO THE PRESIDENT'S MIND. WHAT DID HE INTEND WHEN MAKING THE STATEMENT. WHAT HAPPENED FIRST? WHEN DID SALLY YATES COME TO THE WHITE HOUSE TO WARN THE WHITE HOUSE ABOUT ISSUES WITH MR. FLYNN? WHEN DID MR. COMEY ASK FOR LOYALTY? WHEN DID HE ASK FOR A PASS? ALL OF THOSE, IN TERMS OF CHRONOLOGY WILL BE IMPORTANT TO THE PROSECUTOR SO AS TO ASSIST THEM IN DETERMINING WHAT THE PRESIDENT MEANT IF HE SAID THE WORDS.

TED SIMONS: SOUND LIKE INTENT THE KEY. HE COULD KNOW THAT FIRING THE FBI DIRECTOR MIGHT RAISE EYEBROWS, BUT IF HE KNOWS THAT FIRING THE FBI DIRECTOR MEANS THE END OF THE INVESTIGATION OR PUNITIVE ACTION, THAT'S A DIFFERENT THING.

PAUL CHARLTON: IT IS. APPLES AND ORANGES. ONE IS SERIOUS, ONE IS IN THE EXERCISE OF HIS DISCRETION. WE HAVE TO SEE WHERE THE FACTS LEAD US.

TED SIMONS: OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE? IS IT IMPEDED, OBSTRUCTING, OR…

PAUL CHARLTON: IMPEDING OR SLOWING AN INVESTIGATION. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF STATUTES. HERE THERE WAS AN FBI INVESTIGATION CLEARLY. ATTEMPTS TO SLOW THAT IF DONE INTENTIONALLY CAN BE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. IT'S YET TO BE DETERMINED WHETHER A SITTING PRESIDENT CAN BE PROSECUTED IS A QUESTION. THE CONSTITUTION ALLOWS FOR A KIND OF PROSECUTION, AND WE CALL THAT IMPEACHMENT. YOU REMEMBER KEN STAR TURNED HIS EVIDENCE OVER TO THE HOUSE AND THEN THE SENATE. THAT'S HOW THIS COULD PLAY OUT.

TED SIMONS: HOUSE TRIES AND SENATE CONVICTS AS WE LEARNED. COMEY MEMOS, A MEMO, DOES THAT HOLD UP IN COURT?

PAUL CHARLTON: IT'S DIFFICULT TO INTRODUCE A MEMORANDUM AS A PIECE OF EVIDENCE, BUT IT'S IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL AS SOMEONE'S MEMORY. IT SHOWS SOMEONE IS DOING THEIR BEST TO REMEMBER WHAT CAUSED THEM CONCERN. IF IT CORROBORATES WHAT THE NEWS IS REPORTING, IT WILL BE TROUBLING FACTS.

TED SIMONS: HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS?

PAUL CHARLTON: NOT EVEN WATERGATE IS LIKE THIS THIS.

TED SIMONS: MONDAY, WE HEARD FROM DEMOCRATIC LEADERS ON THE 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION. TONIGHT, IT'S THE REPUBLICANS' TURN. WE WELCOME SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE YARBROUGH AND HOUSE SPEAKER J.D. MENARD.

TED SIMONS: THANKS FOR JOINING US. THOUGHTS ON THE SESSION OVERALL.